MINSK, 13 November (BelTA) – Belarus seeks to maintain balanced relations with all countries, however it views Russia as the main ally and is interested in a cautious rapprochement with the European Union, Belarus Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei said in an interview with The Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of the largest German newspapers. The text of the interview was posted on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, BelTA reports.
The minister reiterated that Belarus is “in a tricky and very sensitive situation” as it is located along the borderline between two major geopolitical players – Russia in the east and the European Union in the west. “The ongoing confrontation between them affects us and our neighbors. This pertains, first of all, to the sanctions and counter-sanctions imposed by Russia and the western countries. They hurt us tremendously as we are an open and export-oriented country,” he said. In his words, in such a situation Belarus seeks “to maintain balanced relations with all countries”, however it views Russia “as the main ally”.
However, this does not mean that Belarus does not want to enhance relations with other states. “During the latest global financial crisis we learned the hard way that dependence on one country is detrimental to our economy. Therefore, we would like to diversify our relations and view the European Union as the second most important economic partner. We would like to have good relations with the EU and other countries of the world,” the minister emphasized.
When asked what lessons Belarus learned from the conflict in Ukraine that also found itself at the confluence of interests of the major players, he said: “The situation in Ukraine is a negative example for us. I believe that part of the blame goes to the EU that tried to attach Ukraine as fast as possible in the past. I understand Ukraine's aspirations to become closer to Europe. However, we will not act in the same way,” the minister said.
“We do not want to make the same mistakes as Ukraine did. We want to avoid all pitfalls on our way to a closer engagement with the EU. Caution is entrenched in the mentality of Belarusians. We want to be a country that contributes to stability, not turbulence,” he added.
Vladimir Makei expressed concern over some alarming developments in the European Union, among which are Brexit, conflicts over the refugee policy. “We would like to see the EU united, single and strong, a reliable geo-strategic player who knows what it wants. In this case we draw much less attention. We would like to scale up our cooperation, including as part of the Eastern Partnership initiative. We put forward proposals on energy diversification, infrastructure and digitalization. However, progress in other areas is questionable because of the lack of interest on the part of the EU,” he emphasized.
Commenting on the turbulent relations between the EU and the USA and possible benefits for Belarus, the minister said: “We are interested in a smooth and solid transatlantic cooperation. It would be more beneficial for us. The trade wars between the USA and China and between the USA and the EU are detrimental to our interests. We want everyone to play by clearcut rules. We export up to 60% of our output and we want peace in trade relations.”
Vladimir Makei explained why Belarus seeks to step up cooperation with China. “We used to have issues caused by the EU's sanctions. We also faced problems with our Russian partners. These problems revolved around supplies of gas, oil, sugar. In this regard, Belarus' authorities decided to find another strategic partner, the one who does not put any political conditions,” he noted. When asked whether Belarus is concerned about falling under the sway of China, the minister gave a negative answer. “We do not have such concerns. We have not sold land plots to China. We have not sold any companies. We try to maintain a balance in our relations,” he added.